08/07/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Is the Boob Tube Stealing Your Joy?

Last week I asked you to share any effective tips you've discovered for creating a more joyful life. One comment suggested "turning off the media noise machine," and I'd like to explore this further. What does that "media noise machine" mean, exactly? Am I saying television is evil? Hardly. Sometimes there's nothing better than a night on the sofa with your favorite program. But the lure of breaking news alerts, flashy commercials and titillating celebrity gossip can quickly rob us of joy and we won't even realize it.

HGTV is one of my favorite channels. I get great ideas for my own home or yard, plus admiring beautiful things is a natural and good human trait. But then along comes that one redecoration project that is simply beyond my budget, and I can actually feel the joy draining right out of me. I'll never be able to afford that entertainment system or that kind of fine art! My outdoor grill already needs to be replaced, and when will I ever update the bathrooms?! Before I know it, I hate my house and everything in it.

Recognizing these triggers is essential to being joyful. There's nothing wrong with my house. It's comfortable, in good working order, and I have my favorite things at hand. But sometimes I have to turn off HGTV to realize it.

A few years ago, a friend challenged me to watch less television and substitute it with another activity. I thought he was crazy! About the same time, my pastor was also encouraging our congregation to do the same. They were both attempting to help me see that there is more to life than the manufactured world presented to us in plasma/high-def/LCD.

So I gave it a shot. For a few weeks, I walked in the mornings instead of watching Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira on NBC's Today Show. I won't kid you, it was difficult! I would miss the news, the movie trailers, the witty breakfast-time banter! But you know what? I didn't die and I still managed to know what was going on in the world. More importantly, I got some needed exercise, I saw how the trees in my neighborhood had grown, I felt the sun and wind on my face, and I had quiet time to think about my day, my relationships, my job, my dreams. Those walks were so refreshing that I now take them as often as the weather permits, and I no longer miss Matt and Meredith. I'm sure they're fine without me.

But the "media noise machine" can be like a collective trap in which we all get caught. Remember last year, as the economic news grew worse and worse, how inescapable it all became? Even though my job was secure and my bills were paid, I began to worry. I was transfixed by the doom and gloom -- and it was robbing me of my joy. So I simply decided not to watch television news anymore. I would get my news elsewhere. Guess what? The world didn't come to a halt and, no surprise, my joy returned. I'm not advocating sticking our heads in the sand, but unless you can remedy a specific situation in your own life, why lose sleep? You're not doing anyone, including yourself, any favors.

Give it a try. Leave the television off in the mornings and have quiet time instead. Tell your spouse and children to pick one night for games or going outdoors. Or make Fridays a night to come home to your favorite music instead of a chattering television. Enjoy television in a balanced way. If you do this, you'll be surprised to discover how many joys, both big and small, your life already contains.